U.S. surpasses 1m COVID-19 deaths

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The U.S. on Wednesday surpassed one million COVID-19 deaths, according to data compiled by American broadcast television network, NBC News.

The number – equivalent to the population of San Jose, California, the 10th largest city in the U.S. – was reached at stunning speed, 27 months after the country confirmed its first case of the virus.

“Each of those people touched hundreds of other people.

“It’s an exponential number of other people that are walking around with a small hole in their heart,” said Diana Ordonez, whose husband, Juan Ordonez, died in April 2020 at age 40.

While deaths from COVID-19 have slowed in recent weeks, about 360 people have still been dying every day.

According to World Health Organisation (WHO), COVID-19 cases and deaths continue to decline but omicron sub-variants are driving an increase in the Americas and Africa.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Tuesday recommended travellers continue to wear masks in airplanes, trains and airports despite a judge’s April 18 order declaring the 14-month-old transportation mask mandate unlawful.

The CDC said it based its recommendation on current COVID-19 conditions and spread as well as the protective value of masks.

The Justice Department in April filed a notice it would appeal the ruling and it had until May 31 to do so.

But the government has made no effort to seek immediate court action to reinstate the mandate.

The mask mandate had been due to expire on Tuesday just before midnight unless the CDC sought an extension of a Transportation Security Administration directive.

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A CDC spokeswoman said, “As a result of a court order, the mask order is no longer in effect and is not being enforced.”

At a Senate hearing Tuesday, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, cast doubt on the idea that the administration wanted to reimpose the mask mandate.

“The appeal concerns whether the CDC has the authority to (require masks) in this pandemic or in any pandemic, which is completely distinct from whether a mask mandate ought to be applied any given day,” Buttigieg said.

Buttigieg said he agreed that based on conditions on April 13, when the mandate was extended for 15 days, that it should have been allowed to expire but said it was a CDC decision.

Hours after the April 18 ruling, the Biden administration said it would no longer enforce the mask mandate, which prompted airlines to let passengers end wearing masks mid-flight.

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